Business Playbook: What Is It?

Chris Ronzio

May 19, 2020

With a business playbook, your team stays aligned, your people accountable, and your organization can scale successfully. 

But that all starts with having all your top plays documented in one place (AKA building your business playbook)! That way, anyone on your team can play any position. 

So, let’s break down everything you need to know about a building a winning business playbook: 

What is a business playbook? 

A business playbook is a collection of all your company’s processes, policies, and standard operating procedures. And it outlines exactly how your business does what it does, down to each role and responsibility.

(You might also hear it called an employee playbook or an onboarding playbook – depending on the company.) 

And with it, your team stays aligned, your people accountable, and your business can scale successfully. That’s because it takes the guesswork out of how your company does what it does. 

Think of it this way. When you buy a new computer, you get a giant user manual. And this manual teaches you everything you’ve ever wanted to know (and maybe a few things you never needed to know) about your new investment. 

Your playbook is that user manual for your business! It outlines all your company’s tribal knowledge and makes it so anyone on your team can play any position. But most importantly, it keeps your business running smoothly. 

Here’s the only catch – unlike a car user manual, you need to build your playbook yourself. And this includes keeping it updated as your business grows and how you do things evolves.

Does my business need a playbook? 

Short answer – yes, every business, regardless of size or industry, needs a business playbook to scale successfully. And it should be filled with all your documented policies, processes, and procedures.

After all, championship sports teams win because they have the right players and a solid playbook. And scaling your business is no different! 

Of course, you need a roster filled with top talent. But you also need all your top plays documented so anyone can win in any position.

Business processes not documented

And without a playbook, you run the risk of your business looking less like a championship sports team, and more like your kindergartner’s soccer team – everyone running after the ball and crashing into each other. Just saying. 

How do I build a business playbook? 

Consistently! (No, this is not a punchline.)

Whether you’re using a top-rated playbook software like Trainual or Google Docs, you need to be consistent. (But a top-rated playbook software is a lot better at this.) 

A lot of companies run into trouble when they either don’t have something documented. Or when something is documented inconsistently. For example, it’s missing steps, outdated, or confusing. 

But either way, this leaves employees guessing the best, safest, or most efficient way to do something. And they won’t always guess correctly – which could cost you time and money in the long run.

Want more of a step-by-step answer? Here you go: 

Step 1: Start by auditing what you already have documented. And be sure to organize it all in one place. This will be the start of your employee playbook. 

Step 2: Update what you have. Go through everything that you have and make sure it is both complete (AKA not missing anything and up to date). 

Step 3: Document what’s routinely on your plate. Take each task and write down (or film, if that works better) how exactly you do that one thing. Be sure to be super specific wherever possible. 

Pro tip: If you don’t know what needs to be documented, look wherever you outline expectations. This might be your project management software, your calendar, or your employee scorecards.

Step 4: Repeat step 3 until you’re out of routine tasks. 

Step 5: Have your team document what’s on their task. (AKA send your team members through steps 3 and 4). We find that it’s helpful to give examples of how you want it done. Or, you can create a how-to for documenting – your choice really. 

Step 6: Organize them all whichever way makes sense to you and your team. Just make sure they’re all in one place and easy to find. 

Pro Tip: With Trainual, you can organize all your how-tos and need-to-knows in one place. Plus, you can assign them out, track who knows what, and test for understanding. 

Step 7: Keep your playbook up to date moving forward. (We like to make updating our playbook content a quarterly event! That way, it’s just a few minor updates and not rebuilding from scratch.)

How long does it take to build?

Building your business playbook is an ongoing process. By leveraging an opportunity like the 10-day Playbook Challenge, your company can build a solid foundation for your playbook in less than 2 weeks. 

Yes, you will need to continue documenting your business. (Businesses have a lot of moving parts and likely, documenting them all won’t take just 2 weeks.) 

But you can also start looking for opportunities where you can improve how your business does things. As you find better best practices, you will need to update your how-tos and need-to-knows to make sure your team is empowered to do their best work moving forward. 

But doing this doesn’t have to feel like a sprint toward the finish line. Instead, set aside an hour weekly to continue documenting your business or establish a monthly goal to improve a process monthly.

Building your business playbook doesn't have to feel like this.

Who should build the playbook? 

Let’s get this straight first… just because you are a business owner or leader does not mean you need to build your entire company playbook all on your own! In fact, we highly suggest not doing this! 

Instead, invite each team member to document the tasks they are responsible for that keep the business running. This includes everything from hiring new people to debugging code to creating new ad campaigns. 

This will make building your business playbook feel like less of a burden. But it will also ensure your playbook is filled with all the best and most accurate information regarding each role. I mean, seriously, who knows how to do something better than the people who actually do it? 

How do I start? 

With Trainual – the world’s best playbook software (duh!).

We know, that sounds like a lot… because, well, it is! Not only do you have to document all your processes, policies, and procedures. But you need to keep them up-to-date moving forward.

But you shouldn’t feel overwhelmed or like you have to do this all on your own. We’re here for you!

We noticed early in the game that tons of companies are documenting the same thing. And documenting them pretty much the same way. 

So, we decided to put in the grunt of the work and create world-class templates to help you jumpstart building your playbook! 

Today, we have over 100 (and counting) templates ready for you to use in our in-app Template Library. And they cover everything from new employee orientation to using your go-to apps! 

Plus, for more niche processes that we don’t know much about, we lean on top industry leaders! That way, no matter what policies, processes, or procedures you’re business needs, we got you covered.

And here’s the best part: with Trainual, you can build your business playbook all in one place, assign content directly to your team, and even track who knows what to keep people accountable. That way, there’s no way that your business can’t win! 

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